Tuesday July 6 2021

How Parents Can Motivate Students During

During this time of online learning, children can struggle to focus and can be quite unmotivated. 

Why Can Distance Learning Fail?

For many working parents, online learning is synonymous with stress, with some children struggling a lot with it. But this does not have to be the case. When a child is motivated, they can learn well – whether online or at physical school. 

Why Are Children Not Motivated in Distance Learning?

What is motivation? Motivation comes from the “reward centre” of the brain that releases dopamine – the chemical that makes us feel good, and activates and energises our brains. When we experience positive reward, dopamine levels rise and we’re motivated. When dopamine levels are low, we don’t feel like doing anything. 

One of the biggest enemies of dopamine is stress. Stress also inhibits the pre-frontal cortex of the brain from functioning. So, even if a child is forced to ‘sit down and study’, they cannot learn because the pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for thinking, is impaired. 

Causes of stress are not just the reality of distant learning and absence from friends, but children also pick up on our own stress. Children often mirror their parents’ stress. So if you are stressed about your own situation – your child can pick this up and take it on for themselves. Another source of stress for a child is from a parents’ attempt to control their child’s behaviour. As parents, you are rightfully worried about your child’s education so often apply pressure to the child, but constant pressure from this can cause a child to feel a lack of control of their lives and the perception that you are trying to control them. 

Distance Learning Advice for Working Parents:

  1. Manage your work stress – When we manage our own anxiety, our children learn coping skills to deal with stress, promoting their resilience. 
  2. Let go of control on our kids – Scary thought since we want the best for our kids! Our control of their behaviour, whilst good intentioned, can cause stress, be demotivating and diminish the child’s ability to learn. We need to learn how to better empower our children to make quality decisions and to support and guide them through the times when they don’t!
  3. Encourage learning, not doing – Children are born curious. School shouldn’t be about ‘doing work’ – it should be about learning. Encourage your children to learn and strengthen their knowledge – feeling smart and knowledgeable intrinsically motivates them to learn more… and when they don’t get the work done, allow them to experience the consequences! 

4. Focus on relationship instead of homework – A warm, secure parent-child relationship is essential to living a happy and successful life. There is no shortage of stress in your child’s life – teachers, peers, homework, exams etc, but only parents can love their child and make them feel safe even when they fail. Be your child’s safe-haven as opposed to their stressor. 

5. Be supportive and teach stress awareness – To motivate is to boost their dopamine to a health level. Help them identify their sources of stress and encourage them to talk about it. Becoming aware of stress is the first step to managing it. 

6. Provide a stress-free environment – by having a balanced diet, getting enough sleep and studying in a relaxed environment. 

We cannot hold our kids’ hands forever. The sooner they they learn to be independent and responsible for their own education, the more self-motivated they are!  Excerpts from “Parenting for Brain”